Andy Cannizaro

Andy Cannizaro is out as baseball coach at Mississippi State University, sending shock waves around the state, as well as college baseball.

“I had a wonderful opportunity at Mississippi State, but unfortunately I made some poor decisions,” Cannizaro was quoted as saying in an MSU press release. “I hope Mississippi State University and all of the fans and people affected will one day forgive me.”

Cannizaro was John Cohen’s hand-picked guy – his first hire, a guy he essentially hired as his successor even before he moved up from baseball coach to Mississippi State’s athletic director in November of 2016. The MSU baseball job is widely considered among the most attractive in the college sport. State is currently in the middle of a $50 million-plus upgrade to Dudy Noble Field.

“When you look at all the characteristics we need in a baseball coach at Mississippi State, Andy is the perfect fit,” Cohen said at the time.

“We’re getting a better coach than John Cohen,” Cohen also said.

Fifteen months later – after Cannizaro was immensely successful in his first season, taking the Bulldogs to an NCAA Super Regional – Cannizaro resigned effective immediately, according to the release.

The news seemingly came out of nowhere. The decision clearly was made for off-the field reasons. Rumors are rampant.

Cannizaro was in the second year of a four-year contract that paid him an average of $533,000 a year.

MSU pitching coach Gary Henderson, formerly head coach at Kentucky, will become the interim head baseball coach.

“Although I have taken this position under some unfortunate circumstances, I have been with this team for two years,” Henderson said in the MSU press release. “We have great student-athletes and a tremendous staff who proudly represent our tradition-rich program. We will move forward, focusing on the things we can control and give Mississippi State fans a team they can be proud of.”

The Bulldogs, who began the season nationally ranked, dropped all three games of an opening series to likewise nationally ranked Southern Miss in Hattiesburg this past weekend. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play Jackson State at JSU on Wednesday night.

Cannizaro, 39, came to Mississippi State from SEC rival LSU, where he was an assistant coach. A former Tulane standout and grad, he played in the Major Leagues. He then became a professional baseball scout for five years before joining Paul Manieri’s staff at LSU where he earned the reputation of being an outstanding recruiter.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.